Maharashtra restrictions: Ecom firms seek relaxation, fear logistical ordeals ahead


In an effort to get an extension of the deadline for vaccination or covid tests of their delivery riders, online retailers and food-tech companies are expected to make a joint representation to the Maharashtra government, as reported by four industry executives.

This comes in the backdrop of the new restrictions imposed in Maharashtra to curb the spread of the coronavirus infections.

As per the new rules ,all delivery personnel are mandated to be either vaccinated or carry a negative RT-PCR report, valid for 15 days, starting 10 April. Failure to comply with the rules will likely attract penalties.

“A logistical nightmare”

This now poses a new setback for the logistics sector especially e-commerce and food-tech companies as the central government guidelines only permit people older than 45 to get vaccinated, on top of which a scarcity of test kits has led to delays in testing.

The companies are expected to also seek either an extension of the timeline of vaccination of riders or do away with the rule altogether, before the Union home ministry and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT.

 The written representation is expected to be made by the end of this week, said the executives requesting anonymity.

“Although e-commerce firms have begun covid testing of delivery personnel in Maharashtra, it is coming across as a challenge due to the short deadline. There have already been meetings to discuss this”.

Seeking curfex timing extension for food delivery

Meanwhile, several restaurant and hospitality associations are expected to request the Maharashtra government to relax the curfew timing for food delivery and revoke the compulsory testing rule for frontline delivery workers, according to a member of the National Restaurant Association of India.

“Trade bodies will see how the testing goes and then make some recommendations on behalf of e-commerce firms. We are not sure if the state government has the necessary infrastructure to carry out large-scale testing in such a short period,” said another executive from a trade body.

Industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has also urged the government to open up vaccination for the 18-45 age group.

On the other hand, e-commerce and food delivery firms are ramping up testing of riders.

“In view of the Maharashtra government’s new guidelines, we are taking definitive steps to ensure frontline workers, including delivery, product installation executives and kirana partners, are tested for covid as expected while delivering shipments,” said a Flipkart spokesperson.

In a written response, a Zomato spokesperson said the company will be covering the cost of vaccination and RT-PCR tests required for its delivery personnel.

“We are studying the latest state government guidelines to continue deliveries during curfew hours and on weekends in Maharashtra. We continue to practise stringent preventive measures for the safety of our associates, such as adherence to social-distancing norms, mandatory use of face covering and daily temperature screenings for delivery associates,” said an Amazon spokesperson.

The new restrictions have led to mounting fears of losses and logistical strife, with truckers stating that it could lead to daily losses of INR  315 crore owing to an expected dip in demand for trucks.

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